A popular misconception about the public affairs industry is that it’s all about who you know, trading business cards and showing off in old boys’ clubs. Whilst that’s an increasingly outdated view, it is a business that’s about communication, emotional intelligence and relationship building – and networking plays a key part in that.
Consummate networkers Madeleine Hallward, Governmental Affairs Director at Ford Motor Company and Ellwood Atfield’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Nicola Bates both offered up their tips on how to build your own network in a way that works for you. Madeline focused on making the most of face-to-face schmoozing, whilst Nicola talked about the complementary role of online networks.
Top tips from Madeleine & Nicola
- Networking is about people – a network is whatever you want to make of it and your style should reflect who you are as a person. Go to events where you know one person in the room and start from there. Find opportunities that work for you – whether trade association or agency receptions or smaller dinners etc
- Don’t underestimate the power of being nice – be respectful, look at the person you’re talking to not over their shoulder for your next target. Engage with someone for who they are and your relationship will flourish. Be generous with your networks and remember those who helped you along the way
- Do your homework – the clue’s in the name: it’s a netWORK. Read up on the attendees at an event and find out in advance who you’d like to talk to. Make sure you make a note of where you met someone and when, and remember to follow up if there’s something you can talk about later
- Networking online is a valuable tool – it creates the space for you to share more about your ability, insight, integrity and passion, but it’s not just broadcast – jump into the debate and engage. Don’t worry about numbers – if you’re reaching the right people, your LinkedIn, blogs or Twitter are doing the right thing
- Online supports but doesn’t replace real life – don’t let social media take over your life! Getting out into the world makes you more interesting and gives you more things to share with your network.
About Women in Public Affairs
Founded four years ago by Ella Fallows and Laura Gilmore, the Women in Public Affairs network offers creates spaces for women to learn from mentors and peers about how to succeed and thrive in this dynamic and influential industry. From networking drinks to speed mentoring and training workshops, check us out on Twitter and LinkedIn for more information about what we can offer.
Article written by Soniya Ganvir, Acting Co-Chair of Women in Public Affairs.
Public Affairs groups and networks: